Tag Archives: BCFC

Here we go again

I have to admit that I feel nervous about today’s game with QPR.  As always, I think anything could happen and if we end up losing our third game in a row then I’m going to feel miserable. 

Even if we do lose, I won’t despair completely. I believe that Aitor Karanka is working on a long term plan and that it will bring us stability and safety eventually.  It will take time to get all the players  we need and to work our way up the table and I believe that he should be given that time.  And if he is allowed to continue for two or three seasons, I do believe that we’ll see an improvement in performances and results.  My prediction for this season is that we won’t be in danger of relegation at the end of it.

I’ll be watching the game online and hoping we will get something from it.   I do know that football is just a game and that losing is not really an enormous tragedy but I don’t remember that during a game. It take me about a couple of hours to calm down after a bad game.  But if the team plays well and gets a result, the good feeling lasts the whole weekend.

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Will the pyramid collapse?

It is not unusual for my feelings about football to oscillate between fear and hope. What is unusual this season is that most of the hope is related to my own club, Birmingham City, and the fear is about football in general.  I came across a headline of an article recently that asked, “Football pyramid on the brink of collapse?” and that’s what I have been worrying about.

Here’s a chart of the top of the pyramid that I took from the Wikipedia article on the football league system. (Note that the Pyramid Image is by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay)

The Premier League was launched in September 1992 and the money from the Sky TV rights did not have to be shared with the clubs in the English Football League (EFL). People from the lower divisions and some League officials were against this breakaway. In his book The Beautiful Game, David Conn includes a quote from Gordon Taylor saying,

“The FA is trying to diminish the Football League and with it most of the professional clubs in this country. Its blueprint is a way for the leading clubs to seize virtually all the money, leaving the remaining clubs to wither and, for some, die.”

It feels as though the dying is starting to happen. Bury FC were expelled from the EFL and Macclesfield Town were wound-up.  Other clubs will struggle without gate receipts.  When giving evidence about the impact of coronavirus, EFL Chairman Rick Parry said it was “difficult to answer” how many might go out of business.

This makes me sad because I think of football clubs as community organisations and part of the glue that holds society together. I support my team because they are my team, not because they play the best football. I went and watched them play when they were in Division 3. I also think that the football pyramid helps to provide players for the top clubs and if there were fewer lower level teams then fewer talented players would be discovered.  That’s why the idea that the pyramid might collapse worries me.

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Thinking like a Norwegian

There was a very interesting article in the Guardian on Saturday, about how the inhabitants of Tromsø, in Norway, cope with living in a city which does not see the sun from mid-November to mid-January.  It seems that they cope with it well because of their mindset. The article said: 

“People who see stressful events as “challenges”, with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to cope much better than those who focus more on the threatening aspects – like the possibility of failure, embarrassment or illness. These differences in mindset not only influence people’s mood, but also their physiological responses, such as changes in blood pressure and heart rate, and how quickly they recover after the event.”

I have decided that I’m going to try to think like a Norwegian.  Watching Birmingham City play can be stressful but I’m going to try to think of it as a challenge to find something positive. After Saturday’s game I can say that we haven’t lost a League game this season and have scored twice the number of League goals that have been scored against us.

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Rotherham

Birmingham City have played two teams that were in the playoffs last season and got a win and a draw.  Today we are playing Rotherham, who were promoted back up to the Championship last season, and  I suspect I am not the only Blues fan fearing that we wll lose.  So often in the past, we have played well against good teams and then been beaten by a team that’s not so good.

I’m encouraged that Aitor Karanka seems to be aware of the danger of complacency.  In his press conference he said that it was a mistake to think you were better than your opponent. He also said that the Rotherham game was our toughest game so far. From what George Friend said in his interview, it sounds as if he is not complacent ahead of the Rotherham game and I hope the rest of the team feel the same. If Karanka manages to avoid losses against poorer teams then he will have achieved something important. If we lose today, I’ll think that it’s typical Blues. But if we win, then my hope for this season will be boosted.

Already, I am hoping that we will stay well clear of the relegation places this season.  I’ve tried to remind myself that it is the hope that kills me but I can’t help hoping.  It hasn’t helped to tell myself that you can’t forecast how a season will go from the first two games. I also know that it is too soon to judge if Karanka is a good manager for my team but I can’t help believing in him. I like the way that he is bringing in players who are good people as well as being good players.

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Blues News Poster

My copy of the Blues News Poster arrived yesterday. Buying this was a departure from my usual practice; I don’t usually buy any programmes, apart from the one for the last home game that contains most of the results. I think I must be missing Blues games more than I care to admit.

One thing I wanted to see was their list of players.  It was almost the same as my list but with two exceptions.  Connal Trueman was not on their list.  He’s been loaned to AFC Wimbledon to get more game time.  Click here to see his interview about this. The other difference was that they didn’t have Neil Etheridge on their printed list.  He obviously signed too late to be included.  

The back of the poster also included a nice message from Aitor Karanka, saying he was extremely happy to be head coach of the club.  I’m also happy that he is coach.  Somehow he has got past all my defences, built up to spare me from despair when things don’t work out, and I’m looking forward to this season. 

I’ve removed Connal Trueman and added Neil Etheridge to my list, click here to see what it looks like now.  I will add it as a cheat sheet when the transfer window has closed on  October 16.

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Smile

My expectations for this new season should be based on sensible reasons but they aren’t. I’m feeling hopeful because I like the manager and I like him because he has a nice smile. I’ve just watched his press conference and when he smiles, I feel he can work wonders. That feels like a stupid reason for a fan to hope but maybe it’s not as stupid as it seems. A manager needs to be able to encourage players and maybe his smile and some encouraging words can work wonders. Surely a manager who smiles can raise team morale more than one who looks to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And a team that hasn’t won a game since February, needs its morale lifted.

Aitor Karanka has already forged an arrangement with Xuandong Ren and seems to have more of a say in transfers than previous managers did. That’s an achievement. If he can also get the players to trust him then this season could be the start of something good.  I hope it is.

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New Season

When Saturday Comes has published its new season special and Birmingham City play Cambridge today in their first competitive game of the season.  I feel that I should be excited but it’s hard to get excited sitting in front of a computer watching a game being played with no spectators.

For me, going to a game is about more than the football. It’s about being part of a community that supports our team, a community that celebrates or cries together.  Football without fans at the game is not the same. 

When the squad numbers were published yesterday, I was pleased that Maxime Colin had swapped the number 5 shirt for number 2.  He is one of my favourite players and now he has the same number as my all-time favourite, Jeff Hall. I’ve been looking at the list of players and trying to work out who they all are.  You can see my attempt at a list here, but it was done in a hurry so there may be mistakes.

In WSC’s  new season special, the Blues writer predicts a mid-table finish, which seems possible to me.  However, I did think it rather unkind to suggest changing the name of the Tilton to the Marc Roberts Stand to commemorate a full season of “long throws straight into the keeper’s arms.” If we score from a Roberts throw today, I might get a bit excited.

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Hope

It’s the hope that kills you they say. And they are right. If I could stamp out hope and expect the worst before every game of football, I wouldn’t feel so crushed when the worst happens and there would be times when I’d be pleasantly surprised by Birmingham playing quite well. 

But I can’t help feeling hopeful about this season. It started when Xuandong Ren appeared at the press conference introducing Aitor Karanka as the club’s new head coach. When Ren said that he had been looking for a partner to take the club forward, I started to hope that he had found a coach that he could work with and whose views he would respect. He said that Karanka would  have the time and authority to build and lead this football club going forward.

My hope has continued to grow as the club has taken time to bring in new players and they seem to be the ones that Karanka wants, players who play in a way that fits in with his plan and have the kind of personalities that will contribute to a good atmosphere in the squad. The performances in pre-season have helped me to believe that we have a head coach who knows what he’s doing. And the three goals against Walsall were encouraging.

I’m not hoping for promotion this season or that we’ll win a cup. I’m just hoping for steady progress and that we’ll be well clear of the relegation zone at the end of the season. It takes time to build a winning side and I’m hoping that Karanka will be given the time he needs to do that. 

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Uncertainty

Uncertainty is one of the attractions of footfall; not knowing what the result will be adds to the excitement. But uncertainty can also be a pain. In seasons in which relegation is a possibility, I look forward to the last game and knowing whether or not we will be staying up.

This season is different. An EFL statement has said Wigan will have points deducted after their game but that they can appeal. So there is a possibility that we might not know tonight if we are safe or not. If Wigan get 12 points deducted and end up in 22nd place and Birmingham City end up just above them in 21st place, we won’t know if we are really safe until we know if Wigan’s appeal is successful.  If it is successful then I think Wigan would stay up and we would go down.  I’m quite good at thinking about things to worry about. I hope we win tonight but don’t expect we will.

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A sad ending

Pep Clotet left Birmingham City yesterday, after we lost 1-3 to Swansea.  He was given an impossible job and tried to do it. 

Brian Dick said in his article that he was given a hospital pass, a term used to describe a pass that makes it likely the recipient will get heavy contact from an opposing player and could end up in hospital.  He wrote,

“Yet it’s all sadly predictable. Clotet was chucked a hospital pass from Day One – thrust into the hotseat and an atmosphere of acrimony. Deprived of the club captain, leading scorer and record signing and told he would have little influence on transfers. ‘And while you’re at it get us playing attractive football, with young players in the top half of the division. Cheers’.”

I have no idea what will happen next. I’d like a good manager to arrive and save us from relegation. But I fear that no good manager would want to work under the same conditions that Pep Clotet worked. 

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Fulham

Craven Cottage is one of my favourite away grounds.  The walk from Putney Bridge underground station to the ground has to be one of the pleasantest approaches to a football ground in this country.  I enjoy going there even when we don’t win.  And when we win, like we did in 2015, the game is lodged in my brain as one of my favourites. 

I won’t be walking alongside the River Thames today, hoping for a good game.  I’ll be looking on my laptop, dreading another loss. At least nobody will see me if I’m crying by the end of the game. 

Whatever happens, I feel sad that I’m never again going to be in a stadium watching Jude Bellingham play in a Birmingham City shirt.  I hope that his move will work out well for him.

I’ll include some pictures from 2015 to cheer myself up.

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Hull

When I think about Birmingham City playing Hull City, two games come to mind.  The first was in September 2017, when I went to watch the game in Hull.  It was Lee Carsley’s third and final game as caretaker manager. His first game in charge had finished as a draw against Derby and the second was a win against Sheffield Wednesday. In the third game at Hull, we were beaten comprehensively, and the final score was 6-1. I spent a couple of nights in Hull and liked the place but not that game.

The second game was a home game in March 2018. I didn’t feel too hopeful when I went to the game as we had lost the previous 7 League games. Also, it was snowing and the game was played in atrocious conditions.  It was Gary Monk’s third game as manager and it ended in his first win. Blues put in 8 shots on target and 3 of them went in.

I have no idea how we will get on tomorrow but I was encouraged by our performance in the game against WBA. I expect I’ll feel the usual mixture of hope and fear before the game.

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Matchday rewind

The Leyland Daf Cup Final was a very significant game for me. It was the game that brought me back to Birmingham City.  My dad took me to games when I was a child but I stopped going around 1959. However, I didn’t stop checking their results and continued to check them when I lived abroad. I attended one game in May 1982, when Birmingham beat Coventry with a goal by Mick Harford and avoided relegation.  I was back in England with my American husband and wanted to give him a taste of British culture.

We went to Coventry cathedral in the morning and the game in the afternoon.  He received more of a taste of British culture than I had planned as we saw fans tearing the backs off seats and police with dogs to escort them back to the railway station.  I enjoyed the game but decided that I didn’t want to experience that sort of aggro again.

We were back in England again in 1991 and I didn’t even try to get a ticket for the game at Wembley because I knew I didn’t stand a chance, having not gone to any games since 1982. On the Wednesday before the game my husband said he was going to town and came back with a ticket to the game.  He had talked someone at the club into selling him one of the few odd remaining tickets.  

So I went to the game.  On the way there I wondered if I was being foolish to go on my own to a game where there might be hooligans. But I sat among a really friendly group of men who remained good humoured even when Tranmere equalised. When Gayle scored the winning goal I stood up and yelled like everyone else and went home happy but exhausted. I started going to games again the next season.

The rewind of the game reminded me of what a good game it was.  But it wasn’t the game that made me decide to start going again, it was the friendliness and good humour of the people around me.  I felt I belonged with them.

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Easter Saturday

It’s Easter Saturday and the weather is beautiful, it doesn’t seem right to be staying at home. But that’s what I’ll be doing. It’s what I’ve done for the last 3 weeks and what I’ll probably be doing for many more weeks to come.  The Church of England prayer for today talks about crying to God from “the depths of our isolation” and seems very suitable for the present situation.

I miss the excitement of football and the way you never know what to expect. Performances can range from pathetic to peerless.  I’m reading books during this time and there can be surprises in them.  But finding out that the woman you thought was an evil interloper is really his daughter does not compare with watching your side score just after your goalie saved a penalty.

An EFL letter has been sent out, saying that this season, including playoffs, can be finished in 56 days.  They also said that training should not start before May 16 but did not say when playing games might start.  May 16 is 5 weeks from now, which seems a long time.  But, of course, that date isn’t fixed; there are so many uncertainties.  Richard Bevan, of the League Managers’ Association has said that football should only start again “once all players have been tested for coronavirus” and who know when that might be.

So I’ll continue to read books and miss football.

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Strange but still good Friday

This has felt like a very strange Good Friday. On previous Good Fridays I have joined in with the prayer walk round Harborne and gone to the service on the High Street.  This year I just walked on my own around the retirement apartment block where I live.  We’ve been asked to stay within the building or gardens and I’m staying home as instructed and keeping 2 metres away from people I see. 

What seems like ages ago, I had planned to do the prayer walk and then go to the game against Swansea. But today, neither will take place.  Back in 2015 I wrote a post about going to a football game on a Good Friday and how I’d decided to go and remember the significance of the day in the quiet, reverence of the morning service and in the less reverent crowd in the afternoon, a crowd that probably had some similarities to those that watched and mocked as Jesus died. Watching the game and mocking the opposition is what football crowds do.

For me this day has still been good because of the significance it has for me. Whatever you believe and do this Easter, I hope you are safe and well.

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